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First Year Seminars (199's)

Five students sitting inside Woodsworth College looking at a laptop together and smiling

Learning in a top research university means becoming involved in academic life by exchanging points of view and tackling controversial topics. The Faculty of Arts & Science first-year seminars enable new students to engage in academically rigorous discussions and develop strong written, oral and teamwork skills in the process. Small classes help ensure that all students are active participants in discussions.

The seminars are regular degree courses running either for the full academic year from September to April (full-credit) or from September to December or January to April (half-credit), taught by some of the Faculty's leading scholars -- many of the best researchers and teachers at U of T.

The program features 100 first-year seminars, capped at 24 students each in the humanities, social sciences and in interdisciplinary studies. 

Each 199Y1 or 199H1 seminar has a generic designator, which corresponds to the following breadth category:

  • CCR -- Creative and Cultural Representation
  • TBB -- Thought, Belief and Behaviour
  • SII -- Society and Its Institutions
  • XBC -- Cross-Breadth Category -- Y course seminar that counts as half in each of two breadth categories

Courses are restricted to students newly admitted to university and students may enrol in only ONE 199Y (1.0) or TWO 199H1 (0.5) courses. 

    Timetable and Registration Information:
    Timetable & registration instructions:  2018-19 Academic Year

    Note:  During the registration priority period, Woodsworth College students will have registration priority in the following 199 courses:


    From Ray-Guns to Light Sabres: Science Fiction in Modern Culture

    Course:  XBC199Y1Y-L0331 (September 2018 to April 2019: Tuesday 1-3)
    Title:  From Ray-Guns to Light Sabres: Science Fiction in Modern Culture
    This course examines science fiction as a literary genre, a sociocultural phenomenon, and a media industry, with attention to its key themes (for example, future history, artificial intelligence, the alien and the hero), key works (including classic texts, such as Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, and contemporary favourites, such as George Lucas’s Star Wars films), and ongoing debates about its place in contemporary culture (Does science fiction have relevance for all of society because it addresses vital issues, or is it essentially escapist entertainment serving a niche audience?).The course will emphasize both prose science fiction and science fiction in other forms, including film, television, video games, graphic novels and comic books; class discussions will focus on development of a critical vocabulary suitable for analyzing all of these. We will also examine science fiction fandom as a subculture and consider the role of fan activities in shaping science fiction’s impact and status.        

    Instructors: W. B. MacDonald & T. Moritz
    Breadth categories:
    1 Creative and Cultural Representations and 3 Society and Its Institutions


    Protest Movements and Popular Culture

    Course:  SII199H1F-L0331 (September 2018 to December 2018: Thursday 10-12 noon)
    Title:  Protest Movements and Popular Culture

    “Millions of people take to the streets of major cities around the globe to protest the Iraq war in 2003.” “More than 35 cities and towns across Canada hold rallies to stop the war in Afghanistan.” “The Arab Spring calls for democratic change as demonstrators fill Egypt’s Tahir Square in 2011.” “Black Lives Matter protests sweep American cities in 2016.” “The Women’s March on Washington draws over 500,000 and five million worldwide in 2017.” These and other headlines confirm that protests, recently almost all orchestrated through social media, continue to form an important aspect of popular culture, but these protests are only the latest stage in the evolution of an organized, citizen-initiated campaign for social, economic and political justice that can be traced back to the Civil Rights Movement and Peace Movement of the 1960s.

    This course examines how various forms of popular culture, such as films, music, art, literature, TV, internet sites and social media, reflect and promote protest movements, past and present.  Special emphasis will be placed on the interplay of popular culture with the peace movement/anti-war protests and the civil rights movement/anti-discrimination protests, as well as with the environmental movement/anti-pollution protests and the indigenous rights movement/anti-colonialism protests.

    Instructor: T. Socknat
    Breadth category: 3 Society and Its Institutions


    Roll Over, Beethoven: The Experience of Music in the Age of Recording

    Course:  CCR199H1S-L0331 (January 2019 to April 2019:  Friday 10-12 noon)
    Title:  Roll Over, Beethoven: The Experience of Music in the Age of Recording

    The invention of recording in the late 19th century caused profound changes in the world of music, changes so fundamental that we can easily overlook them today. Before recording, listening to music was always social, requiring the presence of other people playing and singing; now, in Robert Philip’s words, “most of the music we hear comes out of black boxes.” How has recording technology affected the experience and meaning of music? How has it changed the form of music and the way(s) it is made? What other economic, social and ideological forces influence the modern music scene and shape our tastes as listeners? In this course, we will explore these questions from an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing on selected readings from media theory, music criticism and studies of the music industry.

    Instructor: W. B. MacDonald
    Breadth category:  1 Creative and Cultural Representation


    Learning from the Land: Indigenous Knowledge and Storytelling in Toronto

    Course:  CCR199H1F-L0331 (September 2018 to December 2018:  Wednesday 1-3)
    Title:  Learning from the Land: Indigenous Knowledge and Storytelling in Toronto

    The land now known as Toronto has a 13,000+ year old history of Indigenous presence that is still unfolding. This history is inscribed in the land – it is visible in the geographical features, place names, and contemporary urban form of the city and is represented through stories (oral and written) told by diverse members of Toronto’s Indigenous community. This course engages with stories of Indigenous history and presence in Toronto through a selection of Indigenous literary works about Toronto, Indigenous guest speakers, and a series of experiential Indigenous storytelling tours of significant locations across the city.
    Students will be introduced to Indigenous worldviews and ways of knowing and will learn why storytelling remains a significant and culturally-appropriate means for keeping and sharing land-based Indigenous Knowledge. Through engagement with Indigenous stories and perspectives about Toronto, students will gain a deeper appreciation of the city as a traditional Indigenous territory and will reflect on their own relationships and responsibilities within these lands. Course seminars, discussions, and readings will prompt students to see how Indigenous stories and representations of Toronto exemplify broader histories and contemporary realities of Indigenous communities, land, colonialism, and activism. 

    Instructor: J. Johnson
    Breadth category:  1 Creative and Cultural Representation